When Grandma Becomes Mommy
Did you know there are more than 8 million children who are being raised by their grandparents? That number’s on the rise, too. AARP refers to these families as “grandfamilies” and it’s not anything like most older Americans saw for their future, yet they have full and sole responsibility for everything associated with their grandchildren. Grandma becomes mommy when she takes on the financial aspects, medical needs, ensuring they get to and from school, helping with homework and everything else associated with raising children. In most cases, the parents are not in the home with the children and their own parents.
Because of this, it’s changed the way millions of older consumers see their retirement and twilight years. Make no mistake, while it seems as though it serves its purpose, when grandma becomes mommy, it comes with its own unique challenges and problems from legal, ethical and medical perspectives.
Many clients report feeling as though there’s no place for them to turn for support or resources. They’re using the money they saved for their retirement in order to ensure a great childhood for their grandchildren. Even as the problem grows, there’s a dimming spotlight on this phenomenon. Grandparents are rightfully worried. What happens if they are unable to care for the grandchildren due to illness or lack of finances? Everyone loses. Many grandparents were already on very tight budgets and surviving on their retirement benefits, Medicaid and/or Social Security. The addition of a child – or several children – is a stress many simply can’t shoulder.
Take a look at the numbers:
583,000: The number of grandparents responsible for grandchildren under the age of 18 and whose income was below the poverty level in the past 12 months. Another 2.2 million are just at the cutoff for poverty.
10%: Children in the U.S. living with a grandparent in 2010, totaling nearly 8 million.
$45,000: The median income for families with grandparent householders (and at least one parent, either who lived full time or part time with them) responsible for grandchildren under 18. For families where a parent of the grandchildren was not present, the median income was $33,000.
670,000: The number of grandparents who had a disability and were solely responsible for their grandchildren. They rarely receive help.
As estate planning lawyers, this is clearly a new defining factor in the otherwise traditional American family. It presents its own unique problems and it also means new resources and solutions must be found. It changes everything about the way Americans see retirement and estate planning. While the answers might not be clear just yet, with commitment and a focus on family, the solutions are out there.